Having worked with the client for many years on luxury housing projects in the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan, we were approached to work with the family-run development company again, following their recent reorganization upon the passing of the family patriarch. The sons, assuming leadership of the company, sought to renovate and update the exterior of their father’s first significant project, a late 40s-era Tokyu Department Store in Kichijoji.
The nine-story department store occupies most of a large block in the center of Kichijoji, a fashionable residential and commercial neighborhood. The building anchors the local retail district and serves as a destination for shopping, dining, and socializing. The exterior, composed of alternating vertical concrete mullions and modestly-sized windows, was dated. Ironically, the windows are largely decorative, an attempt to add distinction to a building type (department store) that is typically lacking in windows and inwardly focused. The challenges of updating the building are numerous: work must be performed without interrupting day-to-day business operations; construction staging must be confined within the capacity of the existing building structure; building elements need to be sized so they can get through the narrow streets; and the solution must work within the tight neighborhood context.
Rather than demolishing what is there, the strategy is to create a new facade that layers upon what already exists. A new skin of fritted glass panels will wrap the primary street facade of the building, simplifying the massing and serving as an elegant counterpoint to the visual noise of the neighborhood. Subtly animated during the day and at night, the skin of the building itself will become an ever-changing display of light, color, and translucence. The concept, which takes its inspiration from the way light plays upon clouds, will bring a fresh, luminous presence to the neighborhood while diverting attention away from the size of the building. As day turns to night, programmed lighting will celebrate the transition from daylight to darkness. Unlike other retail districts in Tokyo, such as Shinjuku where vibrant video displays rule, a slow-moving choreography of artistic lighting will serve as a counterpoint. Completing the reworked front facade will be a large video screen. Integrated into the facade mid-block, the screen will provide additional projection options. Wrapping the remainder of the building—the back and sides—will be a delicate scrim of expanded metal mesh, which will preserve views from back-of-house spaces and offices.
Longtime design partner SWA Group will transform the landscape elements. New sidewalks, a roof top park, and a pedestrian plaza on the west will bring an exciting new look to the neighborhood fabric. The design also includes upgrades to the storefront windows and building entries.
Project team Richard Beard Architects (architecture and interiors) SWA Group (landscape architecture)